The sky is inky blue, a swirl of dark and light. Day and night do a slow dance before the moon rises high above the trees. The music we can’t hear beckons the fireflies from their hiding places. One by one they appear, little lights twinkling against the backdrop of an early summer evening.
I first caught fireflies as a girl of seven or so. Taking my brother and I to the porch, my grandmother handed us a mason jar. “Be gentle,” I’m sure she told us.
Then she watched and smiled from the edge of the flowerbed in a wheelchair. (She had polio at age 29, younger than I am now.)
I don’t know where these creatures live, what they do in the winter, why they come again…but I do know each one is like a bright and beautiful memory floating through the air.
And, because of this, I still catch those flickers of brightness even though childhood has long gone. I place them (gently, yes) into jars, water bottles, whatever I can find. When I have twenty or so I let them go and watch the homemade fireworks display.
Saturday I did this for the first time of the season. Our dear friends, Sean and Kim, were there. We sat on the patio and as the fireflies appeared, I begged my guests to go with me. Sean joined the chase while Mark and Kim watched from the patio at our crazy zig-zags across the yard.
In my firefly moments I feel more alive, happy, and closer to heaven than I do almost any other time all year. It’s as if everything that’s sweet, good, and right is made real in tiny flashes of light as I think of my Grandma and all she taught me of joy.
In the hospital after being told she would never walk again, her pastor said, “Frances, you can choose to let this make you bitter or better.” She would tell me again and again with a twinkle in her eyes, “I chose better.”
My Nana knew joy, like a firefly, flits about you. But if you are serious about it, you must pursue it. And she knew joy, like a firefly, often comes surrounded by darkness. Perhaps that is what makes it so brilliant and beautiful.
Yes, on the porch beneath a summer sky I still sense my grandmother’s smile. And as the last lingering firefly disappears into the night I smile too…knowing I’m sure to find it (and joy) another summer evening or, when least expected, it will once more find me.
What’s a little thing that brings you joy?
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